When Hadda Brookes released her debut single, Swingin’ the Boogie in 1945, she was billed as Queen Of The Boogie. This wasn’t hype. Far from it. Hadda Brookes was the real deal. That’s why she enjoyed the longevity that she did. 

Hadda’s career lasted over fifty years. She was rediscovered by a new generation of music lovers in the nineties. This resulted in Hadda releasing a new album in 1996, Time Was When. It was so successful that Hadda was booked to play at some of the smartest clubs in Los Angeles. Fifty-one years after the released Swingin’ the Boogie in 1945, Hadda was still Queen Of The Boogie. Even today, twelve years after Hadda died in 2002, the Queen Of The Boogie’s music is still hugely popular.

So much so, that Ace Records have released Queen Of The Boogie And More, a twenty-four track compilation of Hadda Brookes’ music. They focus on Hadda’s time at Modern Music. Eighteen of the tracks have never been released before. They’ve lain in Modern Music’s vaults for over sixty years. Belatedly, they make their debut on Queen Of The Boogie And More, which is the perfect introduction to Hadda Brookes’ music.

The Queen of the Boogie was born Hadda Hapgood on October 29, 1916, in the Boyle Heights suburb of Los Angeles. Her mother was a doctor and her father a deputy sheriff. However, it was Hadda’s grandfather Samuel Alexander Hopgood who proved to be the biggest influence on her career.

Samuel Alexander Hopgood moved from Atlanta, Georgia, to Los Angeles, where he lived with his family. He was steeped in the arts, especially theatre and opera. As Hadda grew up, Samuel introduced his her to theatre and opera. His influence rubbed of.

Growing up, Hadda listened to Italian coloratura soprano Amelita Galli-Curci and operatic tenor Enrico Caruso. This lead to Hadda studying classical music with Italian piano instructor, Florence Bruni. She trained with him for twenty years. However, when Hadda graduated high school, she headed to the University of Chicago.

Having left Los Angeles Hadda headed to the Windy City of Chicago. It was there that Hadda discovered vaudeville, black theatre and the music of Bert Williams. Hadda’s time in Chicago was like a cultural awakening. She’d broadened her cultural interests and completed her degree. Hadda had also decided to become a professional musician.

On her return to Los Angeles, in the early forties, Hadda became a professional musician.Her first booking was playing piano in the tap-dance studio owned by Hollywood choreographer, and dancer, Willie Covan. Hadda was paid ten Dollars. In return, she played a selection of popular songs. While this might not seem like the most glamorous booking, Hadda was playing to an audience of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, who Willie worked with. For Hadda, she wasn’t complaining. At last, she was making a living as a musician. She was now a married woman.

Earl “Shug” Morrison was a member of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. He was also Hadda Brookes’ husband. They married in 1941. When the team headed off on tour, so did Hadda. She would play venues in the cities the Harlem Globetrotters visited. Sadly, Hadda’s marriage didn’t last long. Sadly, Earl died of pulmonary pneumonia in 1942. Hadda and Earl had only been married a year. Never again, would Hadda marry. It seemed nobody could replace Earl. So, Hadda decided to concentrate on her career.

After Earl’s death, Hadda began honing her style. Personally, she preferred playing ballads. However, she started listening to boogie woogie pianist like Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis. For Hadda, this was a eureka moment. Instantly, she realised this was the direction her music should head. This was a hunch, but a hunch that proved right.

Jules Bihari was a Hollywood based musical entrepreneur. With his brothers, he’d formed Modern Music. They were doing their best to carve a niche into a music market that previously, had been populated by major labels. Not by the early to mid-forties. Now a number of small, ambitious, independent labels had sprung up. This included Modern Music. Every label was constantly looking for new artists. Jules found Hadda in a Hollywood music store.

At the time, Hadda was sitting playing classical music on one of the store’s pianos. Jules was mesmerised by Hadda’s talent and beauty. So, he asked her name and if she would be interested in recording for Modern Music? She agreed and the Queen Of The Boogie was born.

When Hadda’s career began, she decided to dispense with the name Hopgood. She decided to adopt the surname Brookes. That would be the name that would adorn her releases. 

From the moment they met, Jules had made it clear to Hadda the type of music he wanted her to play. He wanted people jumping out their seats and pressing the replay button on the jukebox. This was easier said than done. Not if you were the Queen Of The Boogie. Hadda’s debut single was Swingin’ The Boogie, a song that would become synonymous with Hadda Brookes.

On its release in 1945, Swingin’ The Boogie saw Hadda Brookes billed as Queen Of The Boogie. They weren’t far wrong. Swingin’ The Boogie gave Hadda a regional hit. It was so successful within the Los Angeles area, that several times, Swingin’ The Boogie had to be repressed. Swingin’ The Boogie had launched Hadda’s career. 

After that, Jules Bihari sent Hadda into the studio with a small band. Two of the singles Hadda released in 1946 were Basin Street Blues and Polonaise. Tucked away on the B-Side of Polonaise, was Polonaise Boogie. It features on Ace Records’ compilation Queen Of The Boogie And More. So does Grieg’s Concerto Boogie In A Minor. It’s another B-Side. It was the B-Side to 1946s Grieg’s Concerto In A Minor. Hadda was forging a reputation as one of the finest boogie-woogie pianist of the day. So, Jules decided to record Hadda as often as possible. 

As a result, Jules was recording more music than he could release. This was deliberate and meant that for the foreseeable future, he had recordings he could release. In total, Hadda recorded over one-hundred tracks for Modern Music. So, even if Hadda decided to leave Modern Music, Jules would be able to continue releasing singles. However, it looked unlikely Hadda would leave Modern Music. She was, after all, Jules’ girlfriend.

In 1946, Jules decided that Hadda should release her debut album. This would a first for Modern Music. The company had never before released an album. It featured just six tracks. These tracks were recorded in February and March of 1946. Hadda, as always was a perfectionist. She had the highest standards. So much so, she’d constantly record the same songs time and time again. This was the case for her debut album. 

When Hadda recorded her debut album, she recorded the same songs over and over. She was determined to get them right. Eventually, the six songs that featured on Hada’s debut album were ready. The six songs feature on Queen Of The Boogie And More. They’re  Sunset Limited, Juke Box Boogie, Night Life, Boogie In The Bandbox, Bully Wully Boogie and Down Beat Boogie. It’s not the original version of Bully Wully Boogie that features on Queen Of The Boogie And More. Instead, it’s Take 3. Given how good Take 3 is, Hadda obviously had exacting standards. That would the case throughout her career, including when she changed direction musically. 

By mid-1946, Jules decided that Hadda should change direction. Initially, Hadda recorded just instrumentals. Not any more. Now she was ready to find her voice.

So Hadda headed into the studio on and recorded That’s My Desire. On its release in 1946, it became the biggest selling single of Hadda’s career. Since then, That’s My Desire is recognised as a classic West Coast R&B single. After the success of That’s My Desire, Hadda became the First Lady of Modern Music. They recorded and released Hadda’s music in ever greater numbers.

In 1947, Modern Music Minuet In G Boogie and Humoresque Boogie. They’d later feature on a compilation released by Modern Music in 1955, A Collection Of Popular Songs-Modern Records Volume 7. It featured eight tracks. The A-Side featured Polonaise Boogie, Humoresque Boogie, Hungarian Rhapsody #2 In Boogie and Melody In F Boogie. Each of these tracks feature on Queen Of The Boogie And More. The only difference is that it’s Take 2 of Hungarian Rhapsody #2 In Boogie and Take 4 of Melody In F Boogie. These are two further examples of Hadda’s exacting standards. Another examples can be found on the B-Side. 

The B-Side of A Collection Of Popular Songs-Modern Records Volume 7  featured Hungara (Gypsy), Grieg’s Concerto Boogie, Roses Of Picardy Boogie and Minuette In ‘G’ Boogie. Only a rehearsal version of Hungara (Gypsy) features on Queen Of The Boogie And More. For most pianists, this version would be good enough. Not Hadda. It seemed she was always looking to better her previous efforts. So much so, that it was if Hadda’s career was a constant search for perfection. Maybe that’s why she was such a talented and versatile pianist. That becomes apparent on the other unreleased tracks on Queen Of The Boogie And More.

Of the other ten unreleased tracks, we hear different sides to Hadda. She’s at her bluesy best on 134 Blues, Strollin’ ‘N’ Rollin’ and 743 Blues. 134 Blues was recored in 1945, early on in Hadda’s career. Strollin’ ‘N’ Rollin’ was one of many songs written by Hadda. She recorded in 1946, just as her career was taking off. Sadly, it was never released, until now. It shows Hadda developing as an artist. So does 743 Blues, which was recorded in 1947. By then, Hadda had enjoyed several hit singles. She seems to have progressed as a pianist, and showboats her way through this wistful blues. Strollin’ ‘n’ Rollin’ is another track with a bluesy hue

On other tracks, Hadda delivers some blissful boogie-woogie. Without doubt, one of the best is Hadda’s Honky Tonk Train. Hadda delivers what’s best described as a masterclass in boogie-woogie piano. Even better is the unedited version of Schubert’s Serenade In Boogie. Here, Hadda’s accompanied by blazing horns. They’re the perfect foil for Hadda as she demonstrates why she’s the Queen Of The Boogie.

Three other tracks show different sides to Hadda. Sleepy Time Gal was recorded in 1947 and laid-back, feel good sound. Moonglow has a jazz-tinged sound. The guitar proves the perfect foil for Hadda on a track as it meanders wistfully along. Hadda’s take on Stardust is dramatic and full of flamboyant flourishes. She reinvents herself. Gone is the blues and boogie-woogie. Replacing it is a track that’s beautiful, dramatic and wistful. 

The twenty-four tracks on Ace Records’ recently released compilation Queen Of The Boogie And More, is an introduction to Hadda Brookes time at Modern Music. During her time at Modern Music, Hadda recorded well over one-hundred tracks. Some  of them feature on the three previous compilations of Hadda Brookes’ music released by Ace Records. Queen Of The Boogie And More features a mixture of familiar tracks, hidden gems and alternate cuts. They’re a compelling snapshot into the career of Hadda Brookes.

She was, without doubt, a hugely talented and versatile pianist and vocalist. That’s apparent on Queen Of The Boogie And More. Hadda was also a talented and prolific songwriter. She wrote eleven of the tracks on Queen Of The Boogie And More. What’s also apparent about Hadda, is she was a perfectionist. 

She’d record a track and then rerecord it. It wasn’t unknown for Hadda to record numerous takes. Each time, Hadda was determined to surpass her previous efforts. That’s no bad thing. Hadda took pride in her music. She was never going to settle best. That wasn’t Hadda’s style. maybe that’s why Hadda’s career lasted over fifty years.

Not many artists enjoy the longevity that Hadda Brookes enjoyed. Her career spanned over fifty years. She remained relevant throughout her career. Hadda was played in front of dignitaries, politicians and in 1959, Pope Pius XII. Later in her life, Hadda forged a new career as an actress. Music like Earl, remained her first love. Indeed, Hadda was rediscovered by a new generation of music lovers in the nineties. 

This resulted in Hadda releasing a new album in 1996, Time Was When. It was so successful that Hadda was booked to play at some of the smartest clubs in Los Angeles. Fifty-one years after the released Swingin’ the Boogie in 1945, Hadda was still Queen Of The Boogie. Even today, twelve years after she died on November 21st 2002, Hadda Brooks  is still the Queen Of The Boogie And More.







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